Drinks World recently caught up with Four Pillars brains trust – Stu Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and ambassador extraordinaire, James Irvine for the launch of the 2019 release of the Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin.
Held in a private room at the Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale on the former Carlton & United Brewery site, the original wooden bar room has the feel that some legendary Australian Shiraz’s have been polished off there over the years in between copious amounts of Crown lager.
As soon as I arrive I’m warmly welcomed by the affable and magnanimous Stu and there is a delicious Bloody & Lemon in my hand made by Jimmy.
As a natural centre of attention, Stuart loves to talk and it’s always a delightful meander through the things that he likes to talk about; gin and wine predominantly, or things that pop into his head in the moment. It’s usually a hoot, though, and Stu was in fine form!
After proclaiming that we all needed to bring it in close because “they’re not [a big brand]”, Stu introduces Cam as the “impressive part of Four Pillar’s, he’s our distiller, he’s been my mate for 20 years, he was formerly in the wine trade with me. Cameron’s been making Four Pillars since we first started toying with the idea in 2012 and released our first gin in 2013”. Stu went on, “and here we are for Bloody Shiraz launch for 2019, our fifth release”, he said somewhat surprisingly.
In Stu’s intro he touched on the humble beginnings for Bloody Shiraz, having first been made in the Warrandyte South part of the ‘Yarra Valley’, with 250kg of grapes. Stu reminded us of how the Bloody Shiraz gin was named by his wife Sally Lewis, who must have been patiently listening to Stu and Cam trying to come up with fancy French and Italian sounding “wine wanker” terms for their new ‘grape gin’ before she said “It’s just a bloody shiraz gin. Get over yourselves.” Right then Stu knew that was ‘it’ and acknowledged that the quintessential irreverent Aussie flavour of the name has been part of its success.
Cam takes over and says, “Rare Dry gin is the first gin we ever made after developing the recipe for 18 months for a contemporary style rather than a classic London Dry gin and it’s the heart and soul of Bloody Shiraz gin. We use a couple of native botanicals, lemon myrtle leaf and Tassie Pepper, some traditional botanicals like coriander and mountains of juniper, spices out of south east Asia, but then loads of fresh citrus, we don’t use dried peel because we can get fresh organic citrus year round”.
Stu interjects with a thought bubble, “Question, small grapefruit or orange”? as he holds up the fruit in question for all to see. It’s a small grapefruit, but Stu wanted it to be an orange as an example of one of the fresh citrus botanicals that Cam likes to use in the still. We move on.
Cam brought up the topic of Sloe gin and went on to point out the main differences between Sloe gin and Bloody Shiraz gin is that it gets no extra sugar added, instead relying on the sugars in the ripe grapes to add natural sweetness. Sloe berries being so tart and sour rely on sugar to be added during the maceration stage. After testing Sloe gins available in the market, they ranged from 240gm/L up to 480 gm/L. After a quick Google search, Stu let us know that that’s over double the amount of sugar in a *leading soft drink* by comparison.
Next up we tasted the tank sample of Shiraz laced with gin after the 8 week maceration, but at approximately 25% , before being blended with Rare Dry. It was illustrative of how much ripe fruit and sweet grape juice flavour was present, before being paired back and balanced with the straight gin to achieve a more refined flavour.
On selecting the grapes Cam said, “This is a good example of why we chose Yarra Shiraz, when you smell that it’s really spicy, peppery, red berry, plum and that hallmark of white pepper that’s very much a Yarra Valley thing. It’s a varietal that ripens every year and is a bit of an unsung hero of the Yarra”.
On this seasons release, Cam said, “While the majority of our grapes were sourced from the same three vineyards in our home in the Yarra Valley, this was the first year we took grapes from other cool climate Southern Victoria regions. We sourced a small percentage from the Yea Valley, just over the Black Spur to our North and also a parcel from Southern Bendigo, to our west, which is cooler still than the Yarra itself.
“The fruit quality was sensational across the board and we followed the same principles of harvesting some Shiraz early to get some spice and red berry characters and some from late in the season to add extra dark berry, sweetness and colour.
“The resulting colour is deep, rich, reddish purple. There are aromas of pine forest juniper, notes of white pepper, dark berries and spices. The palate is balanced with both sweetness and gin in spades, and some nice tannins on the finish.” A really delicious drop!
“This is our 5th vintage, 5 years ago we crushed 250kg of grapes for the first run of 600 bottles, this year nudging about 100 tons of fruit. That’s a 400 fold increase!
“When you give this a good nosing you see straight away that this is gin. There’s no wine in this, it’s just grapes soaked in gin with natural sugar from the grapes. Residual sugar is approx. 98 grams and comes across a little sweeter than it is because of the higher alcohol content.
This 2019 release is an outstanding expression of a naturally flavoured gin and is the best one yet.
“What we’ve designed around this year’s release are four key serves with the home drinker in mind, either pre-prepared for guests or after a really long day with the simple serve being the Bloody Lemon.
Bloody Lemon and bitter lemon soda or tonic and a slice of grapefruit. The Strangelove Bitter Lemon works really well.
30ml Bloody Shiraz gin
30ml pink grapefruit juice
Topped with your favourite sparkling wine
Add ingredients to a flute glass.
Who Shot Tom Collins
45ml Rare Dry gin
30ml Lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
30ml Bloody Shiraz gin
Add ingredients to a tumbler glass, filled with ice.
20mL Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin
20mL fresh lemon juice
1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Lemon twist for garnish
Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a lemon twist.